San Diego

Family Files Civil Suit for Woman Who Died Mysteriously in 2011

A civil suit filed by the family of a woman found bound and hanged in 2011 is moving forward.

Rebecca Zahau's death in a Coronado mansion more than six years ago stunned the community. Her death was ruled a suicide, but Zahau's family has always maintained she did not kill herself.

Her family’s attorney plans to present their case in a trial possibly set for February.

On July 13, 2011, Zahau was found hanged at the Spreckel's mansion belonging to her boyfriend Jonah Schacknai. Jonah Shacknai's brother, Adam found her. It happened just a few days after Jonah Shacknai's son, Max, died in an accident at the mansion.

The sheriff’s department ruled Zahau's death a suicide, saying Zahua felt responsible for the death of Max. Zahau's family never accepted that, and filed suit.

“There’s not a lot of money at the end of the rainbow in this case,” said family attorney Keith Greer. “The family’s goal is to expose the murderer, let the world know their sister daughter is not the kind of person who would do this, hoping that the authorities will prosecute the case.”

Greer says he will present experts in handwriting, DNA, fingerprints, blood, an expert at tying knots as well as a forensic pathologist.

“We've had a lot of pleadings, a lot of allegations, the complaint has gone though many amendments,” said Greer.

One of the amendments was a change in theory. At first, Greer said the evidence would point to Max's mother Dina Shacknai as the killer. That allegation was later dropped when a video from Rady Children’s Hospital showed her at the hospital with her son at the time of death.

Now Greer says his experts will give testimony to show it was Adam Schacknai who killed Rebecca Zahau.

“In civil court, it’s just more likely than not, greater than a coin toss,” said Greer referring to the standard of proof needed to be met in a civil case. “If you set up the scales of justice and start piling evidence on each side, whichever has a feather more weight is where the victory is.”

The information about the expert witnesses was presented in a motion recently filed by Greer. The motion was in response to a request by the attorney for Adam Shacknai to exclude those expert witnesses.

There is no criminal case. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department has been adamant, that after a thorough investigation, Zahau’s death was ruled a suicide.

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